The BSc in Astrophysics allows you to embark on a guided exploration of the science of the Universe, from our solar system to black holes and from extrasolar planets to galaxy clusters. Core physics, mathematics, and computational skills are developed to allow you to model these systems and to analyse complicated data sets. Students will be able to use some of the telescopes at the University Observatory, which contains the largest operational optical telescope in the UK.
The degree is approximately half core physics and maths, and approximately half astrophysics. It gives you competencies that are useful in a wide range of careers in physics-based industry, in further study and research in astrophysics, in analysing “big data”, and more generally in areas such as finance and management.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Astrophysics BSc page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.
Standard entry grades: AAAA, including an A in both:
Minimum entry grades: AAAB, including an A in both:
Gateway entry grades: ABBB, including A in Mathematics and B in Physics (or vice versa)
Standard entry grades: AAA, including an A in both:
Minimum entry grades: AAB, including an A in both:
Gateway entry grades: ABB, including A in Mathematics and B in Physics (or vice versa)
Standard entry grades: 38 (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in both:
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in both:
Direct entry to second year
Some students may wish to apply for admission directly to the second year of this course. Such an entry point has the requirement of one of the following:
AA at Advanced Highers in Physics and Mathematics, and AAAA at Highers.
AAA at A-level, including Physics and Mathematics.
38 IB points (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in Physics and HL6 in Mathematics.
Students with high academic potential but who have had less access to advanced level qualifications may be interested in the Physics and Astronomy Gateway or International Gateway programmes.
We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 6.5, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
Students must have studied both Physics and Mathematics at SQA Higher, GCE A-Level or equivalent. Preference may be given to candidates offering strong science qualifications over and above the stated minimum.
General entry requirements
All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.
SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:
Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
GSCE (5 or B) in English language or English literature, and one GSCE (5 or B) from the following:
St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.
The School of Physics and Astronomy has an excellent reputation for the high quality of its teaching and research.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold Award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The BSc in Astrophysics is a four-year course (three years for those taking direct entry to second year) run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. During your degree, you will explore the science of the Universe, from extrasolar planets to cosmology. This course is largely a physics course with a specialism in astrophysics, and the astrophysics component of the course makes good use of the mathematics and physics developed in other modules in the course.
In the first two years of your studies you will also study modules from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, as mathematics is the language of physics. Depending on how many mathematics modules you choose to do, you may be able to choose modules in other subjects such as chemistry, computer science, philosophy, or many other subjects from across the University. The flexible nature of the degree programmes at St Andrews means that by appropriate choice of modules in first and second year, you may be able to change your final degree topic during your course. Find out more about how academic years are organised.
In the final two years of the course, you normally take modules in physics and astrophysics.
Final year students also carry out a major project, which takes one quarter of their time for the year. This is often carried out in close cooperation with one of the School’s research groups, and may be observational, computational, or theoretical in nature.
Well-qualified school and college leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. This allows them to complete their degree programme in three years instead of four. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Astrophysics BSc.
It is possible for students to take Astrophysics as a five-year Integrated Masters course, allowing you to graduate with a Master in Physics. Find out more about the Integrated Masters degree. Direct entry into second year for an Integrated Masters is also possible, allowing you to complete an Integrated Masters degree programme in four years instead of five.
The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.
Find out more about studying Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews.
In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours) you will take the required modules in Astrophysics alongside modules in Physics and Mathematics.
Students take the following compulsory modules in their first year:
Astronomy and Astrophysics 1: covers the structure and evolution of the sun and other stars, planet formation, star-formation, violent stellar objects, black holes, and the large scale structure of the Universe.
Physics 1A: covers the core subjects of mechanics, waves and optics, and the physical properties of matter, including laboratory skills.
Physics 1B: covers an introduction to quantum physics, the mechanics of rotation and gravity, and lasers, including laboratory skills.
Mathematics: introduces the ideas and techniques required for further study of mathematics or applications to other sciences.
Students take the following compulsory modules in their second year:
Astronomy and Astrophysics 2: discusses recent developments in the subject including observational techniques, the structure and evolution of stars, exoplanetary science and galactic astronomy.
Physics 2A: covers mechanics, special relativity, oscillations, and thermal physics, including laboratory skills.
Physics 2B: covers quantum physics, electricity, magnetism and classical waves, including laboratory skills.
Linear Mathematics: introduces the theory of vector spaces, linear independence, linear transformations and diagonalisation.
Multivariate Calculus: extends the techniques of calculus in a single variable to the setting of real functions of several variables.
In Astrophysics third and fourth years, you will further develop your knowledge and skills in astrophysics and physics in some or all of the following topics:
atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
the physics of nebulae and stars
thermal and statistical physics.
In your third year, you will take ‘Transferable Skills for Physicists’ which provides training and practice in advanced written and oral communication skills, problem solving and teamwork.
In fourth year, students undertake a major project, which is usually carried out in close collaboration with one of the School’s research groups. This provides a great chance to explore astrophysics, and on occasion can lead to a paper in a refereed international scientific journal.
The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours-level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews
Astrophysics and Physics modules are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and laboratory work.
In both first and second year, each module typically consists of four to five lectures per week (20 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (4 to 8 students), and 2.5 hours in the teaching laboratory.
At Honours level, lecture-based modules typically have three lectures a week (5 to 80 students). Some modules also have small-group tutorials (5 to 9 students). Computational Astrophysics and Observational Astrophysics are examples of modules that are more directly practical, with each of these running two afternoons a week.
In your final semester, you will spend about 20 hours per week focusing solely on your final project.
When not attending lectures, tutorials and labs, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:
working on individual and group projects
undertaking research in the library or online
preparing for laboratory work
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations.
You will be taught by an experienced teaching team. Some of these people have specialist expertise and knowledge in astrophysics, others have expertise and knowledge in other areas of physics. You will be able to have significant interaction with the staff of the School. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.
In addition to your studies in the School of Physics and Astronomy, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.
The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities webpage.
During first and second year, most modules are assessed by a mix of coursework and written examinations. In Honours years, assessment depends on the nature of the specific module. Most modules give a higher weighting to written examinations, but some are assessed solely through coursework.
Coursework may include:
tutorial problem sets
Most examinations are held at the end of the semester during a dedicated exam diet and revision time is provided beforehand.
The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within a time specified for the assignment, in some cases two days, in some cases two weeks. Feedback is given with a view to improving your performance in the future.
There are no additional fees for labs and lab equipment in the School. Most students in the 'Transferable Skills for Physicists' module are expected to attend the Burn Conference, and are asked to make a contribution (currently £30) towards the costs of the weekend.
In line with University policy, the School expects its students to purchase a number of textbooks as part of their study.
Graduates in Astrophysics have developed important skills in critical analysis, problem-solving, mathematical and computational modelling, communication, designing experiments, making accurate measurements and analysing results that make them well qualified for a career in science and in various areas outside science such as the financial services.
At the end of your degree, you will be equipped with the following skills that are valued in a wide range of occupations:
ability to determine what information is needed to solve a problem, and a knowledge of where to find or generate such information
applicable mathematical and computational techniques and where to use them
knowledge and understanding of fundamental physical laws and principles
ability to analyse data and evaluate the level of uncertainty in results
identification of relevant principles and laws of physics when dealing with problems
communication skills including the ability to present complex information clearly and concisely.
Graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy have found employment in fields including:
banking and commerce
research and development in industry and in government agencies
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
Physics and astronomy students can participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad website.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students come from across Scotland, across the UK, and around the world to join an international community of students and staff, and all join the University from a wide variety of backgrounds.
The relatively small size of the town means that students get to meet easily with many other students. Some of the optional student traditions help with this mixing. Most entrant students live in University-managed accommodation. There are over 150 student societies and sports clubs to choose from. This can all help to ensure a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Students of Physics and Astronomy may be interested in joining the following academic-related student societies:
Astronomy Society (Astrosoc) runs a range of events from stargazing to an annual ball.
Physics Society (PhySoc) promotes the understanding and enjoyment of physics. PhySoc hosts a number of events including lectures, an annual ball, day trips and pub nights.
Mathematical Society (SUMS) organises talks on mathematics as well as lunchtime gatherings and pub nights.
The School of Physics and Astronomy is situated in a modern building located on the western edge of the town. Most teaching is conducted in this building, which includes a library (with two group study rooms) as well as computing and research facilities specifically for the use of Astrophysics and Physics students.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“The interaction between staff and students in the School is informal yet respectful, and the courses are well thought through. One of my best experiences so far has been the opportunity last summer to work within a Condensed Matter research group; this has made me more enthusiastic than ever for my chosen degree path of experimental physics.”
Alisa (Hertfordshire, England)
School of Physics and Astronomy University of St Andrews North Haugh St Andrews KY16 9SS
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).